‘Project Runway’ recap: ‘Elegance is the New Black,’ but one designer had a total fashion blackout [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Episode seven of “Project Runway” was all about elegance. I guess you could say that every episode of “Project Runway” is supposed to be about elegance, but in this case the designers were tasked with a unique interpretation of elegance that would also compete for audience votes in a flash sale challenge. So who proved that “Elegance is the New Black,” and whose look was a fashion blackout? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

It looked like Jamall Osterholm was in trouble coming into this week’s show. He was in the bottom three for the last two weeks, and no one this season has survived three trips to the bottom of the judges’ scores (Kovid Kapoor and Rakan Shams Aldeen were all out on their third strike). Every challenge is a clean slate, but the “Project Runway” fans we polled in our predictions center thought Jamall would be a goner tonight.

Meanwhile, Hester Sunshine couldn’t be eliminated after winning her second challenge of the season last week. With that extra burst of confidence and a second helping of immunity she promised to take a big risk in this challenge. The last time she had immunity was in the unconventional materials challenge, and she ended up back in the top three, so her instincts have served her well so far.

Follow along below to find out who the best and worst designers were and who (if anyone) went home in 10th place (times listed are Eastern).

9:02pm — Episode opening with Jamall sad about Rakan’s elimination worries me. The last time someone was bummed about a friend leaving was when Kovid had to say goodbye to Afa, and then Kovid left the very next week. It does seem like some of the brightest lights in the competition (Afa, Kovid, Rakan) have gone out already.

9:03pm — Hester, meanwhile, is celebrating her second challenge win, but she says she hasn’t had a chance to “go really wild” yet. Wait, so all this time has been subtle Hester? I don’t know if I’m excited or scared to see what her version of wild looks like. “I’m here to be divisive,” she says, and now that she has immunity is the right time for it. Well, she’s right about that.

9:04pm — In comes a mysterious messenger with a letter for the designers. they have been invited to a champagne and caviar celebration with Karlie and Brandon. At least they’re not being asked to get in an unmarked van like in previous challenges.

9:06pm — The designers walk in on a Karlie Kloss/Brandon Maxwell fashion shoot, which the designers get in on before they get to the important business: the booze! And now that they’re nice and liquored up, it’s time for the challenge: make a look that “embraces elegance,” but Brandon explains that elegance isn’t all about a gown, it’s about “restraint.” So they have to make something elegant and restrained. I dunno, that sounds like a really vague design challenge.

9:07pm — Each designer is getting a button bag which contains an item that will be the jumping-off point of their designs. The bag and the item should complement the garment. At least that sounds a little more specific for a design challenge.

9:08pm — Sonia picks rhinestone headphones when it’s her turn to pick. Lela picks a statue. Sebastian takes an orchid. Bishme grabs a blue hand. Venny gets a rose wine bottle. Jamall goes with a perfume bottle. Renee takes lemons and limes. Hester picks peacock feathers — very on brand.

9:10pm — Tessa is nervous about being one of the last to pick, and she’s worried because only the curvier models are left, and Brandon once again has to remind these people not to be jerks to full-figured women. It feels like someone needs to be told every damn week that curvy women are, you know, people. Anyway, Tessa picks the money as her button bag object, leaving Garo Sparo with the silver mirror and brush. And the model he’s “left with” is Kate. “I get the girl everybody is afraid to get,” he says. “But I’m going to give Kate the best runway she’s ever had.” I sure as hell hope Kate gets a bonus this season because she’s the same model who got stuck with Frankie’s awful blue body suit, then was berated by Nadine and left hanging out of Jamall’s superhero suit. Giving her her best runway ever is a low bar to clear given how she’s been treated. Justice for Kate!

9:11pm — The designers have two days and $400 to spend on their looks, so smiles all around from the designers. But Tessa is worries she should have kept her mouth shut about working with a curvier model because the judges might hold it against her. Not just the judges, Tessa.

9:13pm — Time for Mood! Christian Siriano tells them fabric choice is of paramount importance with so much money on an elegance challenge. Hester planning an evening gown with pasties — she has apparently had this idea in mind for a while. That’s an idea few people would ever have on purpose, so this should be … interesting? Renee is going out on a limb by using actual color. Bishme is making a blouse and a high-low skirt — doesn’t sound very adventurous, but you never know.

9:16pm — Venny is worried about being restrained because the judges yelled at him about his lack thereof, and they even brought it up again when they announced this challenge. Worst case scenario, at least his model can at least drink the wine that goes with the outfit. Lela is making a fitted tea-length gown with big and sculptural organza, but she’s scared because she has never made a full organza dress — the fateful last words of many a “Runway” designer.

9:19pm — Jamall is thinking of simple construction, smart after two weeks of unfinished looks. Sebastian hopes to avoid being too literal with his orchids, taking some of the shapes and colors from the petals. Sonia is thinking of a modern young DJ for her headphones: “quiet, sophisticated and powerful.” Bishme is “Hestering,” where you change your whole idea halfway through. Day one ends, some people are behind, some people are second guessing, but nothing seems dire just yet.

9:20pm — Interesting to see older contestants Garo and Sonia counsel the 23-year-old Jamall about how he should take this time in his life to develop his art without worrying too much about the business side. I like the wide range of ages and experiences on this show.

9:26pm — It’s day two and Tessa is still nervous about her curvy model and Garo thinks she needs to get over it. Me too. They’re supposed to be able to design for women, but women don’t just come in one shape, and sometimes it seems like designers have only ever seen one woman in their lives.

9:30pm — Time for consultations from Christian. He’s “feeling” Sonia’s ideas, but he’s nervous about her one-sided kimono concept. Christian likes Hester’s general idea of elegant pasties, but he’s definitely, um, concerned. Tessa needs to make something more tailored to go under her big muumuu coat. Bishme’s fabric combo is worrying to Christian. Jamall is making another jacket in a “not exciting” silhouette, looks too basic. Christian seems to think he needs to a whole new idea: get rid of the muslin and start draping, man!

9:38pm — And now it’s time for model fittings, which gives Venny the inspiration he needs for the back straps. And I think Kate looks great in what Garo is working on, thank goodness for that. Jamall is freaking out because he changed his entire design, but Christian is digging it — Jamall moving in the right direction for a change. Course-correct the hell out of it, Jamall! Hester is rooting for him too. But Sonia is freaking out too since she might not have enough time. Tessa’s sleeves become a kind of belt that cinches around the waist, which looks pretty cool.

9:40pm — Bishme is in a panic, Sonia is still falling behind too. I’m the most worried for Sonia right now, especially since she has never been in the top three, so the judges might not give her the benefit of the doubt for any mistakes.

9:44pm — “I feel like a whole new bitch!” says Jamall about his sudden inspiration from draping. But listening to Hester talk about how she’s going to glue pasties to nipples scares the hell out of me.

9:48pm — Models are back for their final fittings. I think Garo’s look is coming along great, making a super fitted look like Tessa is going for loose and drapey. We haven’t seen too much of Lela’s work in progress thus far, but her black-and-white organza look seems promising. But then it’s time for Hester’s pasties, which she’s gluing directly onto her model’s skin — oh boy. “Titties on the runway!” exclaims Sebastian when he sees it. If that’s not elegance, then I don’t know what is.

9:51pm — No more kimono for Sonia — not enough time. Venny’s zipper broke off — oops! And Bishme is only now realizing he added too many things to his design, which Christian was telling him that during their consultation.


9:56pm — After some last-minute finishing touches for a frantic Venny, it’s time for the runway with judges Karlie, Brandon, Elaine and Nina. No guest this week. But actually tonight’s true guest is elegance.

9:59pm — Bishme’s look does have some issues up top and it is kinda messy overall. Even he doesn’t like it. Garo Sparo’s dress looks great on Kate, but on the runway it does lack impact and visual excitement, a little basic, especially from him. Venny’s look is restrained, but the pink really pops. Lela’s sculptural look looks great too. Meanwhile, Sonia’s look is gorgeous, also simple, but with a great dramatic slit up the leg.

10:01pm — I’m not sure how I feel about Renee’s look; it’s just black and covered in scarves. “Oh god, seriously?” says Brandon when Hester’s “elegant” pasties come out. He doesn’t seem to be buying it, and I’m not sure I am either, but she did an impressive job on that pale green skirt. Tessa’s look is a little underwhelming, but it is mostly flattering. I love Sebastian’s interpretation of an orchid, he knocked it out of the park. And Jamall’s look is an interesting, elegant comeback for him with its unique draping and shaping. I have no idea who’s going to be on the top and bottom though. Could go so many different ways.


10:05pm — Sebastian, Tessa, Garo and Renee are safe. Kinda surprised after all that drama around Tessa and her curvy model phobia. That means the Sonia, Jamall, Venny, Bishme, Lela, and Hester are the top and bottom designers. Hester is safe either way, though, since she has immunity.

Bishme — Brandon doesn’t think Bishme streamlined his ideas — there’s just too much going on. Elaine thinks the blouse is beautifully made, but it gets lost with the skirt. Nina loves the draping, but she disliked the print and doesn’t think it’s representative of Bishme’s style.

Lela — Nina likes the corsetry, the accentuated hips and the graphics of the black and white, but she doesn’t like the white fabric over the shoulder that looks like “toilet paper.” But Brandon really likes the toilet paper. Elaine loves the graphic lines and calls the look “elevated and regal.”

Hester — “I think there’s nothing more elegant than going topless,” says Hester before they critique her. Elaine thinks the pasties were a “brilliant idea,” but the execution fell short. Nina warns her to be careful about her execution. Brandon felt this was “disrespectful” to her other work. Karlie admires that Hester decided to do “whatever the f*ck” she wanted.

Jamall — Brandon is “so in love” with the look and thinks it’s all of what Jamall was trying to articulate all season. Nina loves the plaid and how he makes it looks feminine in its draping, though I’ve never thought of plaid as inherently masculine like Nina seems to. Elaine has been waiting for him to show up all season and it’s nice for him to arrive.

Venny — Karlie thought it was “simple and elegant.” Brandon could have done without the straps on the back that Venny was working so hard on, but overall he came back strong. Elaine says, “This is what women want to look like when they go out.”

Sonia — Brandon thinks it’s a beautiful dress, but there’s no strong idea in it — less DJ and more Kenny G concert. It feels “very dated” to him. Elaine wishes she could have seen the kimono Sonia originally intended to make because a DJ “wouldn’t wear that.” Nina thinks “it went too safe.” Uh-oh, too safe is usually the kiss of death. But I thought that dress was beautiful.

10:15pm — Upon closer inspection, Nina doesn’t love Lela’s design after all, and Karlie thinks it looks cheap up close too. But they still love Venny’s look, and Nina loves the color combo. Karlie actually likes Jamall’s look even better up close, and I think he might be the winner this week.

10:17pm — Brandon thinks Hester’s pasties look like “two taffeta fortune cookies.” Nina respects her daring, though; and the model doesn’t think it was executed well either. Nina says she’d be out if she didn’t have immunity. Bishme’s look is “well made,” and Karlie thinks the skirt has potential in some other context. Sonia’s look is “so classic it’s almost cliche.” Since Bishme has won a challenge before I think Sonia is going home, especially since being basic and safe is worse on this show than having too many ideas.


10:24pm — Lela is safe, but not the winner. The challenge winner is … Jamall! Started from the bottom, now he’s here! That makes Venny the runner-up.

10:26pm — Hester is safe because she had immunity. And the decision between Sonia and Bishme came down to half a point. Bishme is safe, so it is indeed Sonia who is eliminated from the show. As always, go big or go home.

10:28pm — As she’s on her way out, Christian assures her that he knows a lot of women who would love to wear her dress on the red carpet. Heck, I’d wear that dress on a red carpet. Maybe she’s stick around if Christian Siriano had a Save like Tim Gunn used to.

10:30pm — Next week’s challenge is a mini-collection for celebrity client Morena Baccarin’s vacation.

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